-Reporting by Charles Bane, Jr.–
Seemingly overnight, graphic novels have become a literary and social phenomenon. These books are also a serious moneymaker for American publishers. Consequently, the form is no longer exclusively the home of superheroes (though the tie between superhero comics and major box office films adds to their lucrative power), but rather, graphic novels are rapidly evolving to provide a setting for artful literary works.
In 1992, a special Pulitzer Prize was awarded to Maus, written and illustrated by Art Spieglman (Pantheon Books). The work chronicled, devastatingly, the experience of Spieglman’s father at Auschwitz. Since then the Pulitzer Foundation accepts entrants of graphic novel formats in all book categories. The foundation’s move is laudable recognition of the graphic novel’s potential for important story telling, and acknowledgment of the genre’s huge profitability. Graphic novels bring in upwards of $875 million yearly (Christian Science Monitor, Aug. 13, 2014).
Major media outlets are commenting; publishing lists judging the merits of graphic novels no differently than they would significant mainstream books. Most recently, Rolling Stone issued this top 50 list.
The phenomenon is not restricted to the United States. There is global intrigue and indeed works like Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon Books) are able to bridge cultural gaps. This work underlines a common humanity between Americans and Iranians.
Still, many comics artists lament the definition “graphic novel.” They believe the label is pretentious, allowing comics publishers to exploit their product by bundling old products under a new guise. A greater majority of artists, however, happily accept and embrace the title. The wide and growing appeal of the new media format has allowed them to convey nuance and their penetrating gift for expression.
One such artist is Laura Grover. Grover’s comic series Unexpecting: Misadventures in Pregnancy, about her pregnancy is hilarious, visceral, and terrifying. She displaces pregnancy from the patriarchal non-narrative of the experience. Currently, the artist is at work on a two-hundred-page family chronicle (previewed below). The evolving work reveals the full potential of the genre, with an opening that will remind readers of a favorite passage in Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley,” where the author encounters Basque migrants who leave Steinbeck touched by their openness and hospitality. You’re going to hear more, soon, of a gifted Laura Grover and her current work -in-progress, because the heritage of one family is the heritage of all and adds richness to our common thread.
Post Photos Courtesy of Laura Grover. Portions Of Grover’s work in this preview appeared in Devil Lake’s Journal and Stone Coast Review.